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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 28 New Delhi July 4, 2015

Dynasty Needs to Explain

Monday 6 July 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

I am sorry to revert to the Emergency yet again, over two successive weeks. R.K. Dhawan, Mrs Indira Gandhi’s confidante, has disclosed that Sonia Gandhi had no qualms about the Emergency. This is contrary to what I had heard when the Emergency was imposed. It was reported that both her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, and she were thinking to return to Italy to bring up their children in a “free atmosphere”.

Dhawan’s observation about Sonia Gandhi makes all the more obligatory for her to explain her stand on the Emergency. Even after 40 years, the dynasty is not coming out clear on switching off the lights of democracy. The dynasty alone is responsible for what had which happened. Mrs Indira Gandhi was indicted in a poll petition by the Allahabad High Court which unseated her for misusing the official machinery.

The Supreme Court gave a reprieve. Dhawan’s remarks show that there was no regret in the dynasty. However, Dr Manmohan Singh tried to make up for the dynasty’s deliberate silence. It is but fair that the sooner it apologies to the nation, the better it would be for it members and the country.

Dhawan has, however, come a long way from the deposition before the Shah Commission, appointed by the Janata Government to go into the excesses of the Emergency. He had deposed before the Commission that he was not willing to say anything against the dynasty and put the entire blame on Siddharth Shankar Ray, the then West Bengal Chief Minister.

In the light of Dhawan’s revelations, the case should be reopened. More than that, there needs to be a probe on how the institutions were diluted and the power got concentrated in Indira Gandhi. The BJP’s senior leader, L.K. Advani’s warning that the Emergency could return, becomes significant. He has not named anybody but the obvious reference is to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has made all other institutions irrelevant and reposes faith in the PMO. In other words, the PMO has become the real power-centre.

I do not think that the Emergency will be re-imposed because the amendments effected in the Constitution by the Janata Government makes it impossible. Yet, conditions can be created which will suggest the re-introduction of the Emergency without a legal sanction.

The rule of Modi becomes ominous in the sense that no Cabinet Minister counts in the BJP Government and the joint consultation by the Cabinet is only on paper. All political parties should put their heads together to stall any Emergency-like rule before it actually comes to exist.

If there was a one-person rule of Indira Gandhi a few decades ago, today it is that of Narendra Modi. Most newspapers and television channels have adapted themselves to his way of working, if not thinking, as they had done during Mrs Gandhi’s period.

Against this background, the murder of a journalist in Madhya Pradesh, which is a better administered State in the country, does not surprise me. The reason was once again the same. The journalist, Sandeep Kothari, dared to cross the line which those, who represent the establishment, have drawn. Beyond that the freedom of expression is not tolerated because it challenges the interest of entrenched elements.

The 44-year-old Kothari disclosed how the sand mafia was operating with the assistance of the police. That is the reason why they have said that Kothari’s death was not connected with journalism. The reading is, however, more harrowing than what has come to light. It is apparent that the police was in league with the sand mafia’s illegal doings.

Some activists had raised their voice many months ago but the authorities took no action. The sand mafia went on increasing the area from where they filled trucks with sand throughout the day. They were once operating at night. But as they were able to ‘buy’ more and more functionaries, they shed fear or hesitation.

Kothari had gone missing from his home in Katangi town of Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh on a Friday, a couple of weeks ago. His family members had lodged a missing person’s complaint the next day, Saturday. However, reports said that three youths, who were closely linked to the sand mafia, had kidnapped and killed Kothari over his refusal to withdraw a court case. The report added that Kothari was out on bail for the last two months in a rape case.

During investigation, the police rounded up the three youths from Katangi on Sunday and they confessed they had killed Kothari, set him on fire and buried him in the forests in Nagpur district. The police are yet to establish whether Kothari was murdered and then burned or if he was burned alive and buried.

Since all the facts about the case have not come to light, it is difficult to apportion the blame. But there is no denying of Kothari’s killing and his journalistic credentials. That the corporate sector has become more influential and more demanding than before is not something which can be disputed. It is intelligent enough not to vitiate the fundamental rights like freedom of expression. They have now roughnecks at their command to fix up journalists.

Kothari was a victim. Burning him alive shows how the establishment on the one hand and the mafias on the other are indulging in more heinous cruelty to instill awe. This is what the political parties are accepting. Because of petty rivalries, they are allowing the democratic polity to be mutilated. That India has compromised with anti-democratic ways and the demands of one-person rule is being exploited by the establishments in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The two countries cite the example of India to suppress critics. This process has become more effective in Bangladesh where the once liberal Sheikh Hasina has now turned into an autocrat and has gone to the extent of creating conditions where there are no elections. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the last general election because it felt that the conditions obtaining in the country did not allow a free and fair election to take place.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com